I have been writing this blog for the best part of a year. As I have learned (and un-learned) more about racism I have added to it, altered it, gone away to research some more, wanted to try to make sure what I was saying was accurate and reflected the seriousness of this subject, but in my usual five minute style.
But this isn’t possible. There is no five minute way to tackle this, of course. I write blogs about games for easy learning with kids, and obviously there’s no quick way to simplify something so complex. With each bit of learning I undertook the bigger it all felt. And at times I found even thinking about this huge subject uncomfortable and difficult. Perhaps you do too? The more I understood about how little I knew and questioned why that was the harder it got. A year ago I felt defensive and challenged. But a year on I simply know I have more to learn, to discuss, and to listen to.
I recently read a quote on the Everyday Racism UK Instagram page (@everydayracism_) that said “To show up imperfectly but open to change, is better than not showing up at all.” So I knew I just needed to post to try and support other parents to make a start on something I feel is hugely important. Because this isn’t about me.
And what do I, a white woman, know about anti-racism? I can tell you the answer to that. Not enough. Not even nearly enough. But one thing I have learned so far is that anti-racism work isn’t a one-off reaction to yet another horrifying event, it is ongoing. I can’t tackle it all in one go, none of us can. So instead of trying to carve out the perfect blog post where you hear about this from me, I instead am going to point you in the direction of the many experts and educators who generously share information, often for free across the internet, and hope that we can perhaps make a start or continue learning together? It is their voices we should be listening to, not mine. After all as Mary Brigadeiro said “It’s a privilege to educate yourself on racism instead of experiencing it.”
To start off, here is a link to psychologist, and best selling author John Amaechi explaining clearly what is meant by anti-racism and how it differs to being non-racist.
About a month ago Naomi and and Natalie who run the Everyday Racism UK instagram account shared the words of Primary School Teacher @island_kim beautifully illustrated by @acaseoflala. The title of this post is How to Start Talking to your kids about Racism. You can find it here.
The first slide of this post says “if you aren’t talking to them about this stuff, they are learning it’s not important to you and therefore of little consequence to them. They will inevitably pick up information somewhere, and it may be misguided.”
So when it comes to our children the first bit, like with many big topics, is simply talking about it.
For me, and perhaps also to you if you are a white parent to white children like I am, this post helped me to understand the difference between teaching them not to be racist and teaching them to be actively anti-racist. Maybe you read the title of this blog and thought “Well, I am not racist and so my child won’t be.” That’s that right? Problem solved?
Sadly not. Children aren’t born thinking negative things about someone simply because of the colour of their skin. That behaviour is learned. And those ideologies can creep in from anywhere. Often very young children show a form of ‘colour blindness’. If you ask them to identify differences between people a lot of them will say clothing, height, and hair colour differences before skin colour. (This is the case with my own kids and with children I have taught) If you show them a black person and a white person and say ‘who is the funniest?’ Or ‘who is best at football?’ Young children will often recognise that you can’t tell anything about what people are like from the colour of their skin. They are right and their wisdom is often wonderful to witness and fools us into thinking that being ‘colourblind’ is a useful way to go about things. Makes it easier on us as white parents doesn’t it? My kid isn’t racist, phew, breathe a sigh of relief and I don’t have to think about that again. Just teach them everyone is the same, job done. But the problem is that people aren’t always treated the same, are they? And if we know anything by now, it’s that being honest with kids about the important stuff, in an age appropriate way, is the best way to go. But how?
We need to introduce them to the idea that everyone SHOULD be treated equally but they have not been through history and are still not now treated equally either, and why that is. Here is a graphic that explains some of the terminology about this better than I can.
In other words it is not enough to just know we aren’t racist and hope our children will learn the same. In order to make the changes we so desperately want to see in society, we need to be and then in turn teach them to be anti-racist. We need show them that it’s up to us and them to start nailing the bits of wood to that tree. We need to get active.
Here’s an example I thought of, when mulling this over. One of Ewan’s best friends has a different skin colour to him. Ewan has never mentioned his friend’s skin colour is different to his. They adore each other and have the same interests. The usual stuff that draws us to people. If I do not speak to Ewan about racism, one day he might be with his friend and someone will say something racist to him. What does Ewan do? He doesn’t know how to respond. He might question if what this other person has said is right? His friend is being attacked and abused but he might not recognise it. He might not see it for what it is and react in the right way. He might not mention it to me or his Dad and instead internalise that experience and come to his own conclusions.
So instead of his first experience of racism being left to chance, I take control as his parent. I teach Ewan that racism exists. I explain it in a clear and age appropriate way. We discuss it regularly and read books about it, in the same way that we do about other big topics like sexuality or mental health. It becomes a regular part of the conversation. We do this so that when racism occurs towards Ewan’s friend he isn’t shocked and frozen. Instead he acts. He immediately allies himself with his friend. He supports his friend. Helps him to report it. Tells me. Tells teachers. Tells the person who was racist immediately that they are wrong and why that is.
I don’t know how ideal an example this is, but from what I’ve learned this is the example that has gone through my head to help remind me of the difference. It starts at home.
So should you hear about how to learn to be anti-racist from me? No no no. You should hear it from the experts. This blog is merely to explain why I think it’s important to begin and to share a few of the many resources that are already out there. So of course this isn’t a five minute fix type of thing but we can take five minutes to begin. How do we go about teaching our children to be anti-racist? Just simply make a start. Read something, think about it, discuss it as a family or with friends. I have listed some resources below. If you are grateful for any of the information in this blog please don’t for one second send your gratitude to me. Instead please save those comments or that energy for people who have taken the considerable time and effort to create these resources below. To them all, I am eternally grateful.
- Have a look at your bookshelves and toy boxes at home. Are they diverse? Do your children see people of all skin tones as the heroes of the stories they read? Can they access toys that represent different skin colours to their own and include them in their play narratives? Some shops and books lists are listed below.
- If you’re not in a position to buy books at the moment, visit a library. If the shelves are not diverse ask the library to order some titles in for you and others in the future. The more requests there are the more we will see our bookshelves reflecting the world we live in.
- Feeling a bit out of your depth discussing it? That’s OK. Take some time to educate yourself as a parent first. Some resources are linked below. We all scroll social media aimlessly at times. I’ve followed some helpful accounts that mean at least when I’m scrolling I’m also learning. Being consciously aware of some of the problems is a useful first step.
- If you’re not one for reading and more of a visual learner there are lots of documentaries and podcasts you might find helpful.
- If you have questions about any of this then Google is your friend. You don’t need to ask people online direct questions that might trigger or upset them. There will be an article or You Tube video already for any question you might have. Check through the archives.
For the kids…
Here are some wonderful bookshops where you can buy beautiful stories with a diverse range of characters and settings.
Here are some of our favourite books…
However the bookshops I have linked to have so many beautiful titles that my suggestion would be to look through them and pick out one’s you think your child will enjoy. I recently bought Jabari Jumps because I knew Ewan would love daredevil Jabari overcoming his fears and jumping off the high board and so far we’ve read it almost every night since I got it.
@consciouslittlereaders links to diverse books and toys
This beautiful shop Colour Celebrations wrote this incredibly helpful Instagram Post titled ‘3 Ways to Help You Talk to Your Children About Race’
If you want to read specifically about Anti-racism this book ‘Antiracist Baby’ by Ibram X. Kendi is lovely. Here’s a reading of it by Tiffany Jana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlDpypi2B5o and if you want your own copy of the book you can find it in lots of places including Waterstones.
The beautifully simple ‘A Kids Book About Racism’ by the author Jelani Memory is also excellent if you’re struggling to find the words to explain it clearly to your children. Here is a video of Jelani reading it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnaltG5N8nE and you can find the book to buy here.
For the parents…
Here are some instagram accounts I love…
@everydayracism_ is the Everyday Racism UK account I mentioned before. It’s full of helpful prompts, insightful stories, advice and tips.
Taylor Quick runs @kidsrcapable and wrote this helpful post on how to ‘Welcome Diversity into your Play Space at home’ – she has loads of fantastic posts on all kinds of parenting wisdom that is massively helpful.
Africa @thevitamindproject has a wonderful set of story highlights on Instagram which include links to shops, materials, and information and is a constant sources of beauty and joy on my feed. We met at an event I did to promote my book and I fell down a rabbit hole of looking at her incredible photos for about an hour on the train home. Be sure to check her ‘boundaries’ highlight first.
Some resources I’ve found useful…
Here is a link to a course you can download called A White Families Guide to Talking about Racism , this page also has guides for A Black Families Guide to Talking About Racism and The POC Families guide to taking about Racism. Naomi O’Brian is @readlikearockstar on Instagram and she put those courses together and is also an Educator and fantastic resource for information for parents.
Nova Reid is a speaker, writer and diversity and anti-racism campaigner. She has so much information on her website which is here and on her Instagram page which is here. She runs online courses too which you can pay to take part in. I enjoy listening to her speaking on the school run.
Here is a fantastic article Vese Aghoghovbia-Aladewolu wrote for the HuffPost about why We Must Talk Diversity with Our Kids. Here’s where to start. She also has a shop you can visit here and you can follow her on instagram @phillynfriends
Jane Elliot has spoken on racism for many years. Just type her name into You Tube and you’ll find some really interesting videos like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZkIGASPrzM and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yrg7vV4a5o
Layla F Saad’s website can be found here and is explains how she is a “New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author, anti-racism educator, international speaker, and podcast host on the topics of race, identity, leadership, personal transformation and social change.” She has written a book called ‘Me and White Supremacy‘ which takes you through anti-racism work day by day. I am working on this with a ‘circle’ as she calls it, at the moment – some fellow mum friends who are also invested in understanding racism better. I’d fully recommend it.
A list of Netflix documentaries and series on Race and Racism is here – I also recently watched the documentary about James Baldwin called I am Not Your Negro and am reading his book of short stories ‘Going to Meet the Man’ at the moment. I will be looking for more of his works in second hand bookshops as the book I am reading I borrowed from a friend.
For further information on everything – look here
As parents we have direct access to the future of our world. Our children. So let’s use that to influence them in a way that changes it for the better. We won’t get it right 100% of the time. But that’s OK. When do we ever, as parents, get it all right? When we realise we’ve made a mistake lets hold our hands up and make changes. We can’t ever be perfect, but let’s never stop learning.